Tomes in Amber
“There’s that damn ruggy that’s always reading the books,” muttered Samsar as he struggled to lift a stone block onto the cart.
“Yeah, why does he get to read while we have to do all the work?” replied Groten, busy trying to keep the cart from tipping over while Samsar unsuccessfully tried to lift the stone into it. “There’s noboby around — let’s teach him how men work.”
“Ruggy! Get over here!” yelled Samsar.
The small green figure in shabby clothes came scurrying over. “Sir, what is it sir? How can I help?” grovelled Spivak, “Spivak needs to clean the books sir.”
“Clean them? Ha! We see you reading them while honest men do all the work!” grunted Groten.
“Read, sir? Rugmen can’t read sir. Spivak just cleans them.”
“That’s what you say, but we’ve seen you reading them and we’re going to tell the Foreman and the Lustrators that there’s a ruggy who reads in the library,” replied Samsar, “Unless, of course, you load these stones into the cart for us.”
“Me, sir? Me? Look at Spivak. I cannot lift the stones you strong men can.”
“Well then use some of your damn magic then. Can’t see why the Lustrators even let you have magic, but you might as well help us out. Load the cart or we tell them you’re reading the books.”
“I’ll try sir but I don’t think I can.” The small figure reached for the large ring of keys on his belt and found a well-worn silver key. Rubbing his thumb up and down the key he motioned to the stone which began to shift and twitch in the dirt. But it did not rise.
“Useless Ruggy!” bellowed Samsar as he struck Spivak on the side of the head, knocking him to the ground. “Can’t even move a stone with your fancy magic. I guess we’ll have to tell the Lustrators on you and they can find out what you’ve been reading.”
“No, sir, please don’t,” cried Spivak as he reached for his key ring.
“The bodies are right over here sir.”
The foreman of the library construction led the Lustrator Hallak to where the two bloody corpses lay among their tools.
“Groten and Samsar were a couple of hot heads and they caused a lot of trouble so I sent them off here to work alone,” stated the foreman bluntly, “but I didn’t think they’d fight each other.”
The Lustrator bent down to examine the bodies. Each man was still clutching the shovel which they had obviously been fighting over and using to beat each other. Groten’s jaw was obviously broken and his skull was fractured. Samsar was even worse off — the shovel had nearly sheared his nose off and there was a jagged cut on his throat where the blade had torn his windpipe.
“No one heard them fighting?”
“Just the ruggy hiding in the corner over there — he cleans the books around here,” said the foreman, pointing to Spivak. “Being a cowardly ruggy he didn’t try to stop them, but he ran and got me. But by that time it was too late.”
“Come here Rugman,” demanded Hallak in a low voice.
“Sir, yes sir. Spivak saw the two men fighting. They were yelling at each over … something about a woman.”
“Probably a whore, sir,” put in the foreman.
“I’ll make my own decisions,” Hallak replied bluntly. Turning back to Spivak he looked down at the pathetic cowering ruggy, “And what were you doing here in the library?”
“Like the foreman said sir, I clean the books. My Pa did it and when he died a couple of years ago I took over to help take care of my Ma, and when she died last year I just kind of stayed here, sir. Spivak works hard and they gives me real money so that maybes if I stay I can start a family.”
“Just like every Ruggy, sir,” the foreman put it, “All they care about is making more Ruggys”
“Will you shut up,” Hallak snapped. “You don’t look like the family type Spivak. Where do you live?”
“Well, sir. I lives …”
“If I may, sir,” the foreman said cautiously, “The librarians let him sleep somewhere in the library — that way he works pretty much all the time he’s awake.”
“Spivak loves the library, sir. Don’t make me leave!” Spivak cried grasping for the hem of the Lustrator’s robes.
“Ah…”, Hallak gasped, recoiling from the touch of the Rugman’s hands, “Get away you filthy beast!” Regaining control of himself, he continued, “I do not think it is proper that a rugman be entrusted with such knowledge, even if he can’t read it. And I see from the keys on his belt that he can come and go as he please. But it is not against the code so I will do nothing for now. But, Spivak, I have my eye on you — don’t even think of taking advantage of your situation here or there will be dire consequences.”
“No sir. Oh no sir! Thank you sir”
“Now clean this mess up!”